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Wonder if Smokin' will get a kick out of that title? Really I do have a question about the correct way to finish PB's. I have been thinking about this for a couple of days and would like some thoughts on my thoughts.

I know that this smoking is an ART that takes practice to help sort out the reading,thinking. I know that the different parts of country does things a little different.

I have done PBs at different temps from 200*-235* and don't see much difference in cooking times, until the end of the smoke.I have checked doneness from 190*-200* and haven't been able to tell much difference.Is this just me?

Todd G.,
Please explain to me what you Carolina PB cookers look for in finishing a PB, that will be made into a sandwich, on cheap buns and vinegar dipping sauce? Has this cooking process changed over your cooking career?

I don't mean to pick out the Carolina guys, but that is what they are known for, correct. Anyone else with thoughts, please help me sort this out or try.
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Let's begin with a few questions. Are you cooking bone-in or boneless? I find that boneless PB's take a bit longer.

As a rule I use a 225 o cook temp; bone-in or bone out. I always use a probe thermometer set in the thick of the meat. Once they hit 190 I hone in on the doneness. If they're bone-in, I tug on the blade bone. When it pulls out with a minimum of effort, it's done.

Boneless is a bit trickier. I'll insert the probe from my thermometer into the thickest part of the butt. If it slides in easily, I double check from top to middle, bottom to middle and side to side. When it slides in without resistance from 4 points; it's done.

As for the Carolina fellas...I'll leave that to them to chime in. You'll get 10 different answers from 10 different cookers Smiler
Wow, I don't think I've ever been called out before, so here goes.....

I grew up cooking shoulders and the occasional whole pig, so butts are kind of new to me in that I've been cooking them for less than 20 years.

The biggest change is in the concept of "pulled pork". Traditionally we chop our pork in NC, except for a true whole hog pig pickin' where people just grab a handful (or tong full) and go on their way. Nobody pulled pork in NC before the Food Network started talking about it. Chopped, coarse chopped, and sliced were your choices.

For pork to be pulled you'll need to cook to 190+. For chopped you can stop anywhere above 180* and get good results and slightly better yield if that's important.

In the eastern part of the state they'll add crushed red pepper and vinegar as they chop. Some places add a little Texas Pete too. Any table sauce is just vinegar with some salt and cayenne pepper added.

Piedmont(or Lexington) style will use a finishing sauce like Smokin's added after chopping, served hot on the meat. There might be a stronger vinegar based peppery sauce on the table for those that want it.

Also, traditional wood fired pits usually cook hotter than the 225-250* we discuss most often here, giving the meat little smoke flavor from the wood, but with a more porky flavor coming from the fat drippings. The butts from a CS are really a whole different animal in that they can be as smokey as you want. The crust of a butt cooked in a CS differs a lot from the dark amber colored glaze-like finish of a pit cooked butt. I've yet to have a preference for one vs the other that lasted for more than 3 minutes.

Here are some cooked over hickory coals that kind of give you an idea of the difference in color.
Originally posted by cal:
... Really I do have a question about the correct way to finish PB's

Well you called out Todd and great response Todd.

But since you mentioned me in the first line... Big Grin

It doesn't matter. If you want to go the Carolina way, they'll tell you that you have to cook whole hog or over coals or only use a Piedmont sauce (or not), etc, etc.

Just like you're doing, research and finish your way.

For temp. I don't think the PB knows or cares. Temp you cook at is more a personal preference for one reason.... smoke penetration. Okay, two, bark formation.

I cook all of my PB's at 250. I don't worry about smoke, as I get what I like/want at that temp. But that's on my pellet cooker with my brand/flavor of pellets.

The challenge will be how do YOU like to finish them. Really pay attention to the texture of the pork.

One thing I don't see discussed here is the final texture of the pork, I'd put that in the PB202 if I ever get to it.

Look for mouth "feel". Overcooked pork (above 200) will tend to melt in your mouth. For me, pork in the 195 to 200 has more bite to it.

But it think it's like people who like fall off the bone ribs, those are overcooked, but people love them. I think the same for PB, a lot of people like it more tender.

Not me, I like a lot of tenderness, but want some bite to it.

And I haven't even talked about sauces... (mop, finishing, BBQ style, with tomato, without tomato, and don't forget mustard sauces)

Or foiling (which to me, ruins the bark)...

But I'll have to put that in PB202

Sorry Todd, Asking like that was just the Newbie in me, but you have always been gracious with helping me. Now my Daddy always told me, "Son if you have to go to the DANCE and have to DANCE, might as well go with the Prettiest girl."

So I was sure you had done a few and would hopefully share with everyone!!!

Nice pic., I had a few, whole hogs in high school. We would dig pit and burn wood. Wrap hog in foil and then chicken wire, put in pit and cover up.Drink beer, Eat pig next day, drink beer. Had to be a high school thing!!
Last edited by cal 2
Sorry I took so long to get back. I was out looking for a new summer dress. Big Grin That's a picture you don't want to see!

Your high school experiences are recreated in NC a thousand time every weekend. In the eastern part of the state folks love their whole hogs.

And Tom asked a good question that I have no answer for. In the CS cooking at 225-250* I'll consider a butt pullable at 190* and have only gone higher on a few occasions. The 200-210* some folks speak of produces mush for me.

On the pig cookers, I cook at an average of about 300*, again to about 190* for a pullable product. I do notice a difference in that these butts have more intermuscular fat and a little more connective tissue, but that is removed during pulling pretty easily.

If I'm trying to sleep during the night, I'll turn the pig cooker down to 225-250* so it'll take longer to cook and I can sleep. These butts are more consistent with the butts from my CS, but can be a little dryer because the cooker flows a lot more air. I have always assumed the difference was due to air flow, but it may very well be influenced by cooking temp even more. Hummmmmmmmmmmm..........

I know that I've tried cooking chicken halves at 250* for timing reasons, but the chicken comes out much better at 350-375*. Much better texture IMO, and great skin.
Tom, you ole' rascal you, I thought about that all weekend long. Finish temp has to change with what temp you're smoking at, to get consistent texture.

Otherwise a person could put his smoker on 195*, walk away come back in 2 or 3 days later and have the perfect smoked PB. I think, but hey me and the old black box(cs020) will work on this together.

I hope RibDog doesn't have nightmares after a weekend of cooking with you,LOL!!!
My inaugural PB on the AmeriQue was a 10 pounder. I cooked it at 225 for 18 hours. At that point it was still only 184F internal. It looked and 'felt' done so I took it out, let it rest. It pulled perfectly. Go figure. As they say, "It's done when it's done!" Amen.


PS The only PB I could find was from the Walmart-o, which means it was 'enhanced'. I think this accounted for the unexpected tenderness at the lower temp, but its just a guess. My wife loved it, I thought the texture was slightly off--as is typical of prebrined pork. It was certainly good enough to eat, though!
Originally posted by Todd G.:
I grew up cooking shoulders and the occasional whole pig, so butts are kind of new to me in that I've been cooking them for less than 20 years.


This might be a really dumb question but, what is the difference between a pork shoulder and a pork butt? I have an opportunity to get a good deal on pork shoulders but I've always cooked butts with excellent results and I'm not sure I want to take a chance with another cut.

The butt is the part of the shoulder above the elbow, and the picnic is the part below the elbow. Together, they are the shoulder.

I think the lower leg part has very rich meat which I like as a component of BBQ. I frequently cook butts and picnics in about a 2:1 ratio so I have some of the picnic meat to mix in.

Around here full shoulders are usually sold with their skin on. You can cook it as is or remove some of the skin. Either way your yield will be slightly less with a shoulder than with a butt, so factor that in when thinking about actual cost.

Costco almost always labels their boneless butts as boneless shoulders, FYI.
The picnic is sometimes described as having a "hammier" flavor and does have more connective tissue than butts.

It can also be sliced,more like ham,about 185º internal.

You have to be in a "shoulder area" to get cases of shoulders,usually.

Like Todd says,different suppliers hang "shoulder" in the name,so confirm what you are getting.
The thoughts about finishing temp for shoulders/butts come from the years with the small Cookshacks.

I found that for timing purposes,I might want to start at 200º,the evening before feeding,then maybe kick up to 225º in the morning.Around 186º-187º,I'd get another long plateau,and then it would move on up and hang around 192º-193º.If I checked it at that temp,it would be falling apart on the rack.

Yep,it was real tender-but overcooked.The experienced pork cooks here will know the mouth feel/dryness of overcooked.
Thus,there are times it is worth opening the door and squeezing the butt,or twisting the bone-even though we aren't reading our desired higher internal temp.

Just a thought.

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